I would like to make a case here that “going after the mentally ill” and touting mental health legislation as a way of preventing mass shooting is a misguided approach.
While some psychiatric diagnoses are associated with violence, fewer than 5 percent of people with mental illness ever commit violent crimes. According to many medical studies, only 4 to 5 percent of violence is attributable to mental illness. Conversely, individuals with serious mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators.
Of course, our society needs to expand mental health services for many reasons – foremost to alleviate the suffering of the mentally ill, rather than to protect ourselves from the myth of the “autistic shooter,” a most insidious form of profiling against the mentally ill. Autism is not associated with brutality. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are often secretive and difficult to detect.
Background checks should focus on people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, multiple DUIIs or restraining orders. Road rage and domestic violence should be red flags. A public health study reported that abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm. Road rage events involving firearm deaths have doubled in the last three years.
Priorities should be given to implementing gun safety laws, firearm buy-back programs, anger management training, and changing the gun culture of our society. But don’t use mental illness as a diversionary tactic.
Chinh Le, M.D.
Corvallis (Feb. 20)